There’s only two types of people in the world, the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe…

DIjUZILUEAEjSJu

One of my favourite tasks in the early days of working in PR was trying to identify the blind spot of a particular person or industry – that is the part of their persona they were oblivious they were projecting. Although gathering information through public polling on how the public is perceiving an issue or an individual can be laborious work, it can be the best way to address shortcomings, and it’s fascinating to do as an exercise, trying to find problems and criticisms and perception issues and turn the narrative around before they become major issues. Of course, that’s easy for the gatherer, the person doing the research. Delivering the message to a company that they had negative public imagery or to an individual sporting team that their latest membership campaign hasn’t cut through isn’t easy.

No-one truly likes feedback. What’s changed is the number of people, and teams, who won’t take feedback on board. After all, we’ve discussed on this blog before that negative feedback is now seen by some not as a way to tackle shortcomings, but as a blessing. They are “joining in the conversation” after all. Immuning yourself to criticism creates an inherent blind spot, and when you build a wall, it’s almost impossible to get better. You could also question whether you even have time in this world to truly get better – taking a pause or a breath to adjust might see someone storm past you and take your spot.

We discussed in the last blog post about the world of sound and noise in AFL, the competition to speak loudly and decisively over your competitor is the be all and end all. Right? Wrong? Insane? Sane? Does it even matter? With no one taking a breath or a pause to ponder where this insanity is going, why being wrong or talking nonsense isn’t a detriment to having a career, the media has created a fantastic blind spot, a perfect comfort zone, pure glorious insularity. Who can tell them they are doing a bad job? They don’t care, someone has carried someone from another team off the ground! Outrageous, where is my keyboard!

AFL media has revelled in their blind spot, hoping that if they keep moving, keep talking, keep moving the topics around, you won’t notice their obliviousness to their blind spots. It’s either deliberate and staged or true old-fashioned obliviousness depending on your level of cynicism, but it’s there regardless. It’s there when Damien Barrett decries sensationalism, which needs no comment surely. It’s when Mark Robinson and Gerard Whateley decry a players social media behaviours then gloss over Robinsons tweet about Alex Fasolo. It’s there when people straight-faced go to Wayne Carey for his opinion on sledging. It’s why Jon Ralph can in the same article can admit the media fabricates stories for ratings, then in all sincerity wonder why players don’t trust them. Whether these are outright hypocrisies or mere mis-steps again is up to your degree of cynicism. But the media is incapable of asking themselves tough questions. Either that, or they don’t have the time to do so. As the pressure to get things out increases, taking a moment to ask questions is impossible.

The AFL media is in a cycle of failing to recognise its own issues. We’ve discussed before at least part of it comes from the AFL desire that at all times we need to be talking about AFL, but the greatest blind spot of the AFL and it’s media delegation is that there is so much narrative, none of its participants can truly be consistent. What they said yesterday doesn’t matter today, 2016s actions mean nothing in 2017. Things move so quickly, there’s no time for self reflection. The clamour to get your opinions out before anyone else means taking innocuous events like an Instagram post or trying to do a joke at a press conference gets serious analysis. There’s no sense of perspective – everything is discussed at the same level of intensity, the same chattering, the same solemn voices. When something does happen that is newsworthy, and it’s discussed in the same tones, how can anyone work out what is important? Everything is treated with a similar gravity and gravitas. Player indiscretions are treated the same no matter the import, and once a simplistic label is stuck to an issue, it’s hard to change the conversation. Meanwhile, in other news…

In case you missed it, Dustin Martin of Richmond had a decision to make – either stay with the Tigers or join North Melbourne as a highly paid free agent. It was in fairness a newsworthy story, after all it had a lot of elements. A somewhat controversial, not particularly gregarious footballer at the peak of his powers. A father who was deported to New Zealand. Two big Victorian clubs. Dane Swan was involved somewhere. A manager Dustin went out to Channel 7 decided the best way to cover this was to send intrepid roving reporter Mark Stevens to stand in the airport lobby attempting a doorstop with Martin to widespread ridicule. Chatter, gossip and speculation came from every corner of the media landscape. The story got bigger and bigger over time. Eventually, it was THAT Footy show that scooped the pool, getting Martin to exclusively reveal two hours after everyone knew on Twitter that he was staying at Richmond. This interview was covered by “world class live TV performers” Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman, at the expense of regular interviewer Damien Barrett – an interesting, self contained decision of itself, but that is for another time…

At this point, in a serious show of the media blind spot, Sam McClure, erstwhile seat filler on Talking Footy, piped up seemingly without irony on Twitter that he was glad the circus was over. Exactly what circus McClure was discussing wasn’t clear. McClure works at Channel 7, the employer who sent Stevens to stand in Auckland airport awkwardly. That circus? If McClure was condemning that, then that would be understandable. To be so lacking in self awareness as to participate in the circus so fully as to be on Talking Footy, the emptiest of vessels, and then somehow express relief that it is over as if you were standing on the sidelines combined cheek, irony and ignorance all at once. It’s the same thinking that passes the buck to “keyboard warriors” as if they were the only ones responsible for the detrimental morale of players.

The Dustin Martin “saga” is of course going to replicated more and more as time goes on – it’s not an tale that will go away. In time, the media will move on to the next target – be it Tom Lynch, Gary Ablett, Jake Lever…Mark Stevens huffing in an airport will be replaced by Mark Stevens huffing in a doorway, a car park, a training centre. The circus will move on, and the coverage won’t improve, unless there’s self reflection that sensationalism isn’t what the public want, that people are tired of participants making themselves the story and then washing their hands of everything at the end, blaming the players and the clubs and yes, you the viewer and listener. They are immune to joining the conversation about themselves, but condemn those outside the circle who join in the conversation, as if the circus wasn’t of their own making…

As it rolls on to the next stop, immune to any lessons learned….

A tale of two documentaries

The world of AFL this week produced two documentaries well worth watching – we’ve discussed a little bit the Heritier Lumumba documentary Fair Game a couple of times. The documentary itself was fascinating viewing, taking a more thought out and well explained journey from Harry O’Brien to Heritier Lumumba, a journey that was reasonably easy to understand from the early days of Twitter jocularity to strident activism in several steps of social awakening. It was logically sequenced (particularly the early moments) and to be honest, as much as anything, it was a documentary about insecurity. Insecurity of football clubs to tackle issues, insecurity from Lumumba to challenge the system until he did, insecurity of anyone who challenges conformity, insecurity to change…

Far more nuanced that the detractors would believe, it wasn’t without flaws and questions – why the eulogised Mick Malthouse allowed the chimp nickname to flourish, why the documentary was so abruptly ended, why poor old Sam Lane nodding in engaged conversation was singled out as condenscending – and it served as a brusque reminder that THAT episode of AFL 360 was awkward, as the condemning of Eddie McGuire swiftly turned into a grilling of Lumumba from Mark Robinson about why he was speaking out (never mind the man who compared Adam Goodes to King Kong, never mind that, what are you doing on here Harry? We liked you so much better when you were being a koala!) before an awkward conclusion from Gerard throwing desperately to something Mark McClure had to say that was far more easy to digest…

From a PR point of view, we’ve discussed that Lumumba has many things now attached to his name. The simple claims that are attached to him are that his attempt to explain his position is some kind of modernised attention gambit, as if because he liked tweeting in 2009 he isn’t allowed to evolve and become something else. We often talk in PR about images being frozen in aspic – there are those who wonder openly how such a lovable player became this way. Those people yearn for Harry O’Brien, the thinking chair, the days of Harrys World. The documentary explained quite clearly the circumstances by which those days, that person, are long ago left behind. It was the documentaries clearest message – some things just can’t stay the same…

There was another startling documentary that hit the airwaves this week, the AFLW documentary “Heroes”, which charted the first season of AFLW through the eyes of its participants such as Bec Goddard and Sarah Perkins and Darcy Vescio. It’s fair to say the documentary was outstanding, with the footballers and participants involved speaking evocatively and passionately about their journey through the season. Goddard in particular is a star in the making, an insightful clever coach with plenty to say, and the images and behind the scenes footage is to cherish. As a particularly unique behatted Australian may have mumbled down the lens of a camera, do yourself a favour, and watch it, for it is a special documentary, as good as the work of Rob Dickson or Year Of The Dogs in the football documentary pantheon…

In the face of such an inspiring documentary, quibbling with a negative seems trite, but it is worth wondering – why didn’t the AFL promote this documentary more openly? Sure, it’s not on the “official partner” Channel 7, the documentary aired on the ABC, but the AFL has nothing else on this week. This would have the perfect time to at least mention the airing of the documentary on its website, to promote this startling piece of AFL history? Again, speaking from a PR perspective, we’re all aware that the AFL can through sheer bloody mindesness can promote anything. So why so quiet about this? Why was it below the usual sturm und drang of Harley Bennells off season or giving North Melbourne a mark out of 10 for their season? The AFL had a documentary filled with insightful, interesting role models and chose not to promote it. Hell, Gil was on it, surely that should have been enough…

On a similar vein, the AFL has no games this week (no mens games) on this weekend due to a finals bye – it would be a no brainer to promote a game you might not have known is on this weekend, a female State Of Origin game. The promotion for this game has been staggeringly poor. From my own perspective, I can personally vouch we received press releases on Steve Hocking getting the AFL head of football job and even James Brayshaw taking a position in the Legends game commentary box (a press release with breathless excitement) but nothing about the womens game. It’s a strange decision that in such an openly and deliberately “blank” down week, to not go all out to promote the equivalent of a womens all star game outside of a Bec Goddard infographic. Still, James Brayshaw huh, back in the commentary box…

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s